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North-south political divide? Not really, says new research
While Belgium's French and Dutch-speaking communities voted very differently in last month's elections, their views on most of the main politicial issues are broadly the same, according to a new study jointly conducted by five Belgian universities.
The election results favoured right-wing parties N-VA and Vlaams Belang in Flanders, while Wallonia veered more to the left. But the political values of the Flemish and Walloons are not so divergent after all, say researchers from Antwerp, Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve, ULB and VUB.
In both regions, the highest number of respondents to the research (36%) identified themselves as being in the centre of the political spectrum. The left-right split among the other respondents is similar in Flanders and Wallonia.
The two groups agreed on several issues - such as more tax on the wealthy and giving shops the freedom to choose when to run their sales. On both sides of the language divide, there is strong demand for a minimum pension of €1,500 per month.
The big issue where opinion was more divergent was immigration - where respondents in Flanders were positioned more to the right than those in Wallonia.
Asked to pick the issues that mattered most to them when voting, Flemish respondents chose immigration, followed by social security and tax. In Wallonia, the top three were employment, the environment and social security.
Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga